They see the potential for Robert to move from his motorized chair to a manual chair.
“We expect him to walk one day,” Pam Mayfield said about her son, Robert. “Our life is about keeping him healthy until that day comes.”
An accident two years ago left Robert a quadriplegic. The day Pam dreams of is when researchers can help him and others with spinal cord injuries get back on their feet. “I’m certain it will happen in his lifetime, if not mine,” Pam said. “We want him to be ready.”
That’s one reason Pam drives her son twice a week from their home in New Braunfels to Austin. There, he works with therapists at the NeuroTexas Institute’s neuro-rehabilitation program at St. David’s Medical Center. Seeing Robert make progress gives his mother hope. One of the first goals is to help him gain shoulder strength so that he will eventually be able to lift his arms.
Another is seeing hope grow in Robert as he sits at the biofeedback machine (known as EMG – electromyographic biofeedback) and observes how messages from his brain are able to reach certain muscles. Someday, he hopes those muscles can respond.
Robert was 16 when a truck driven by a friend flipped over as they were driving home from a party. Robert was thrown out as the vehicle rolled. The impact crushed his fourth and fifth vertebrae and severely bruised his spinal cord.
“He was the only one not wearing a seatbelt,” Pam said. “It’s so ironic, because he was always the one telling us to put ours on. It turned out he was sitting in the middle, between two others, and because it was an older vehicle, there was no belt for the middle passenger.”
But Pam doesn’t dwell on the accident or how it changed everything for Robert, as well as for her husband, Robert Scott Mayfield, and their daughter Jacque. For her, it’s all about staying positive. “When he’s happy, I’m happy,” she said.
“I told Robert from the start that we’re still going to live our lives and go forward. It’s just that we’ll travel it differently,” she said. “The truth is, getting depressed is not going to change anything. Besides, he feeds off how I act, and I have to keep motivating him.”
Pamela has also come to believe in the specialized neuro-rehabilitation program at St. David’s, and the therapists who work with her son.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know St. David’s existed,” she said. “I decided to bring him here when I found out Dr. (Juan) LaTorre had moved to Austin from where he had been treating Robert.”
Dr. LaTorre, she said, is the one physician Robert had come to love and trust after his many hospital experiences. “He’s just the greatest doctor ever,” she declared.
“I had no expectations about St. David’s,” she noted. “But I was impressed from the moment I walked into the rehab center. It had such an airy feel; it didn’t even look like a hospital – no doom and gloom. It was modern and updated, and the therapists are wonderful. Their expectation is that ‘you’re here to get well and you’re going to get well.’ They treat him as a person, not just a patient. They explain what they’re doing, how the brain and the body work, they talk about research. It’s all very positive.”
Most importantly, Pam said, “He has improved quite a bit already. They see the potential for Robert to move from his motorized chair to a manual chair.”